No Parking

As you have probably heard, the new “Crossing 900” project has broken ground. Even if you haven’t heard that name (or its former name, “Redwood Towers”), you’ve seen where it is going: where the Middlefield Rd. parking lot used to be. That lot was closed on Monday the 21st, the day the project officially broke ground.

If you aren’t up to speed on this project, Redwood City describes it as follows on their project webpage:

Crossing 900 will consist of two mid-rise buildings containing 300,980 square feet of office space, 5,075 square feet of retail space, and 904 parking spaces. A private open space for the office tenants will sit atop the parking garage, and a public plaza will be located on Winslow street.

And here is the rendering that accompanies that description:

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Not too bad looking, but it is another brick in the tall wall that will partially divide the downtown area from the large part of Redwood City west of the railroad tracks: this rendering doesn’t make clear just how massive these buildings will be. That building on the left will be 8 stories tall… In total, the project should accommodate up to 1,000 employees when completed.

But completion is still a long way off: the project may take as many as 3 years to complete (the builder estimates that it will take some 24-30 months, but I’m guessing that in reality it may take longer). No, the issue for now is parking (or a lack thereof). In one whack this project has just taken approximately 215 parking spaces off the table: prime spaces that were well-sited for moviegoers and other patrons of our downtown Redwood City businesses. As you have probably seen, Hamilton St. has been reworked (and a few street parking spaces removed) to provide some “elbow room” for the construction. And what you may not know is that not only have we lost the large Middlefield Rd. lot, we are losing the smaller Winslow St. lot—the lot directly across the street from the Middlefield Rd. lot, adjacent to Pizza and Pipes—as well. This lot:

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For the record, the 200 lost parking spaces figure I mentioned earlier is the sum total of the spaces from the Middlefield Rd. lot (168 spaces) and the Winslow St. lot (46 spaces). And I believe we’ll get the Winslow St. lot back once Crossing 900 is completed.

Once the Crossing 900 project is complete we may be in somewhat better shape, since the project includes 900+ underground parking spaces, many of which will be available for public use, at least during non-business hours. But for the next 24-36 months, the city has lost a large chunk of its available off-street parking. The city is doing what it can to alleviate the problem, but its going to mean a shift in how those of us who regularly parked in the downtown “core” go about parking. As I write this—on Friday, October 25, the first Friday after the Middlefield lot was closed—I’m guessing that Redwood City is about to discover just how bad things can get. Friday night is a popular one in our newly revitalized downtown: on Friday and Saturday nights we regularly exceed the 85% target occupancy standard that is set for our parking program. That is, when the Middlefield and Winslow lots were in use, we were still filling in excess of 85% of the available parking spaces in the downtown “core” on Friday and Saturday nights. (The downtown core is essentially the triangular area bound by the Caltrain tracks, Marshall St., and Main St., on the downtown side of the tracks, plus the one-block area bounded by Broadway, El Camino, James, and the Caltrain tracks on the Sequoia High School side.) Now that we have lost those 200 spaces, people are going to have to go much farther afield to find available parking.

Although I truly wish that, back when the Crossing 900 project was originally proposed, the City Council had decided to proactively create more parking ahead of the project’s groundbreaking, I do have to give them some credit for negotiating the use of the County Government Center garage during the evenings (from 6:00 pm onwards) and all day on weekends. This garage, located at Middlefield and Veterans Blvd., has roughly 800 available spaces, and thus can completely take up the slack (and then some) during the evenings and on weekends. And the spaces are being made available at no cost; you won’t have to pay to park there. But of course that garage is 3+ blocks away from the theater, so either plan to walk, or try to catch the free shuttle bus that Redwood City has put into place: it runs between the County garage and the downtown core on Friday and Saturday evenings (but not weeknights) from 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm.

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In the evenings, if you can handle the walk or catch the bus, the County garage should be a good choice: with 800 spaces it is unlikely to fill, so you should never have a problem finding a space in which to park. I’m guessing that the surface lots in the vicinity of our downtown, as well as the Century Theaters underground garage and the Marshall Garage, will all fill much more quickly than they used to, so don’t be surprised to find them unavailable if you drive downtown on a Friday or Saturday night. For the record, here is a list of the existing lots and garages available for public use:

  • Century Theaters (underground): 591 spaces. Note that during the day this garage never seems to fill, so it is a good choice if you are heading downtown for lunch. 2 hours free parking, 4 hours free with validation.
  • Main Street (between Main and Jefferson, behind the Jefferson Post Office): 151 metered spaces.
  • City Hall (adjacent to the Main Street lot, just behind City Hall): 16 metered spaces.
  • Marshall Garage (on Marshall, between Jefferson and Main, with an entrance from Broadway): 2 hours free parking, 4 hours free with validation. 387 spaces.
  • Library Lot A (on Middlefield, at the Main St. end): 51 metered spaces.
  • Library Lot B (on Middlefield, at the Jefferson Ave. end, directly across the street from City Hall): 104 metered spaces.
  • Library Lot C (behind the library itself): 51 metered spaces.
  • Caltrain lot (between Broadway and Brewster, along the tracks; this does not include the Caltrain lot adjacent to Sequoia Station, between Broadway and James): 94 available spaces. Free after 6:00pm Friday and (I believe) on weekends. Other times, it is Caltrain’s lot and thus you pay Caltrain’s rates.
  • Perry St. (the little triangular lot behind City Pub, directly across Perry St. from the above-mentioned Caltrain lot): 54 metered spaces.

The above are the lots and garages generally available to the typical downtown patron; there are also numerous on-street parking spaces, of course, but you can expect to have to fight harder to get one of those depending upon what time you go. One tip: if you have a smartphone (iPhone or Android), check out the Parker app; it covers Redwood City and purports to help you find empty on-street spaces (and it points out parking lots and garages, although it doesn’t seem to indicate whether or not they have available spaces). I haven’t used it enough to vouch for its accuracy; if anyone reading this has, please add a comment and let us know how well it works!

Redwood City’s revitalization and the numerous downtown activities (Music on the Square, Movies on the Square, the various art festivals, Oktoberfest, etc.) have served as a strong draw to bring both residents and non-residents to our downtown area, boosting business at the increasing number of restaurants, at the Century theaters and the various live theaters, and at other downtown businesses. I can only hope that Redwood City’s various outreach efforts (signs, banners, posters, newspaper articles, etc.), the County garage shuttle bus, and the valet services that many downtown businesses have organized, do a good enough job to keep people coming downtown. It would be a real shame if people find it too inconvenient to park and decide to avoid Redwood City, choking off the vital supply of customers that our downtown merchants need. I’ve already heard that some merchants are expressing this very fear: that patrons will shop elsewhere rather than have to fight for a nearby parking space.

If the loss of the Middlefield and Winslow lots isn’t enough, the city has just conducted a large-scale downtown parking study. The city staff recommendations based on this study have yet to be finalized, but the initial report was presented to the City Council in a meeting last Monday night. In the lengthy report (which I’ve read) and in the meeting (which I watched; video of it is available online if you are really curious), Bill Ekern, our Director of Community Development, raised several proposed changes that the City Council then briefly discussed.

One of the proposed changes is to the parking rates (mostly, increases) that are intended to increase turnover in the metered spaces and thus hopefully make it easier to find a space near your favorite downtown merchant. Along with this change, they are likely going to be changing the hours in which you must pay for parking: currently metered spaces are free after 6:00 pm, but this may be shifted to 8:00 pm. And permit parkers—who are currently benefiting from a generous city subsidy—will most likely find themselves paying more for their permits in the future. On a more positive note, they are proposing that the City’s fleet of vehicles be relocated to lots outside of the downtown core; this step alone will go a long way towards freeing up much needed spaces, particularly in lots such as Library Lot B. And the multi-space meters that we all know and love are likely to be replaced with ones that are easier to use, easier to read in bright sunlight, and more reliable:

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Finally, there are some blue-sky ideas that may help out in the much longer term. For instance, there is some talk of turning the Main St. lot into a multi-story parking garage. But that construction would cause its own disruption, and it would of course take quite a while to complete, so don’t expect to benefit from that project anytime soon (if ever!). None of these proposals has yet been formally made or adopted, so we may see all or none of these come to pass in our near future. But it is good to see that the City Council is actively monitoring our parking situation and doing what it can to make more parking available in the areas where it is needed most. And you can bet I’ll be keeping any eye on this and will report back when any decisions are made that affect how you park in downtown Redwood City.

4 thoughts on “No Parking

  1. Pingback: Free Parking | Walking Redwood City

  2. great job Greg!! I still worry about parking especially the elderly population that need a parking place close! Also with all that building…will we have enough essentials like water for all?? Thanks for the informative blog!

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